Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gifts to share ... with unexpected consequences!

It needed to be done!

God had just the right person to do it!

But he did not think so!

And so he ran in the opposite direction.

As fast and as far as he could go.

But then things happened..

For Jonah there was the storm at sea, the cry of man overboard and the proverbial whale.

His life fell apart and everything went wrong.

The wonderful thing about God in the story of Jonah is that Jonah has a second chance

I love chapter 3 verse 1

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time …

Second chance.

Same job.

Same person.

Same gifts.

And was Jonah the right person for the job.

He preached just as God had said.

And there is amazement in the story. The people of Nineveh listened.

Why tell that story now?

It goes back to our Deacons day.

We were thinking of gifts that we can share … and we felt as a diaconate it was timely to reflect on the gifts we share.

It is five years since we did a course that asked the Question Who are we?

We asked people to think about three things.

What are you passionate about?

What gifts do you have?

What kind of a person are you?

The course came to an end at Christmas and so we asked people to put a description of the person they are into a Treasure chest that was on the wall on the left.

We then sorted out those descriptions of people’s passion, people’s gifts and the kind of people we are.

And then we tried to shape the life of the church in the light of what people said.

It was encouraging in readiness for the Deacons day to re-visit some of the things we planned way back then and see how they have borne fruit.

But not we are five years on.

There are lots of people around now who weren’t around then.

Those of us who were around then have moved on.

Things have happened in our lives that make us different people.

I for one have gone up a generation!

Let’s revisit that thinking. Let’s think what are we passionate about, what gifts do we have, what kind of a person are we.

The wonderful thing is that God has given all of us gifts. Natural talents we are born with. Skills we acquire. And those gifts of God’s spirit that equip us to do the jobs God wants.

There are blurry lines between all three.

Look through the books of the NT and it is fascinating to see the range of gifts that are mentioned in quite a number of letters. Bring all of them together and there is the kind of mix that put it all together and you make a really good team.

Network summary of gifts.

Many of the gifts that God gives to his people are

listed in a number of key passages in the Bible.

The list is far-ranging and all-encompassing as it

enables us to find out what it is that God wants us

to do. The key passages are I Corinthians 12:8-

10, 28; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:1; I Peter

4:9-10; Exodus 31:3; I Timothy 2:1-2; Psalm 150.

Answer Yes, Somewhat, No or ? To each of the

following statements and it may help you to find

out your own gifts ... or if you did the exercise for

someone else, you might be able to help them

identify their strengths:

I have, or my friend has, strengths in ...

... Developing strategies, organising people, tasks,

and events; creating order out of organisational

chaos - Administration.

... Pioneering new undertakings (such as a new

church or ministry); serving in another country or

community; - Apostleship

... working creatively with wood, cloth, metal,

paints, glass etc; making or building things, working

with your hands – Craftsmanship

... Communicating creatively with art, drama,

music, photography, design and communicating in

new ways to others - Creative Communication

... Distinguishing between truth and error, good

and evil, good judge of character – Discernment

... Strengthening and reassuring troubled people;

encouraging, challenging or motivating people,

supporting others to take action Encouragement

... Sharing faith with others, talking about your

faith with people who don’t believe – Evangelism

... Trusting God to answer prayer and encouraging

others to do so; having confidence in God eve in

difficult times and helping others – Faith

... Giving generously and joyfully to people or

projects in financial need – Giving

... Working behind the scenes to support the work

of others; finding small things that need to be done

and doing them without being asked – Helps

... Meeting new people and helping to make them

feel welcome; entertaining guests – Hospitality

... Continually offering to pray for others, trusting

in God’s provision, - Intercession

... Carefully studying and researching subjects you

want to understand better, sharing knowledge and

insights with others – Knowledge

... Taking responsibility for directing groups;

others to reach important goals - Leadership

... Empathizing with hurting people; patiently and

lovingly supporting people through painful experiences

- Mercy

... Speaking with conviction in order to bring change in

the lives of others; exposing cultural trends, teachings,

or events that are morally wrong; speaking out for

justice in society - Prophecy

... Faithfully providing long-term support and nurture

for individuals and groups of people; providing guidance

for the whole person - Pastoral Care

... Studying, understanding, and communicating God’s

word, making connections with the world around us,

and communicating that effectively - Teaching

... Seeing simple, practical solutions in the midst of

conflict or confusion; giving helpful advice to others

facing complicated life situations - Wisdom

Reflecting on this range of gifts may help you identify

what it is that you are best able to do as you serve

God in the fellowship of the church. The wonderful

thing is that God gives each of us gifts that are different

and wants us to be the people we are as we use

the gifts he has given us in serving one another.

That’s the way that the love of God will flow through

us into the lives of other people too.

Jonah had his second chance: he excelled in the gifts God knew he had.

The people listened.

And there were unexpected consequences.

The people of Nineveh changed their ways.

Jonah had declared destruction would come upon them.

It didn’t.

God’s love was so much greater than Jonah had ever imagined.

And Jonah could not understand it!!

The climax to the story of Jonah contains within it a lesson for us all …

Jonah 4

1 Jonah was very unhappy about this and became angry. 2 So he prayed, “Lord, didn't I say before I left home that this is just what you would do? That's why I did my best to run away to Spain! I knew that you are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind and not punish. 3 Now, Lord, let me die. I am better off dead than alive.”
4 The Lord answered, “What right have you to be angry?”
5 Jonah went out east of the city and sat down. He made a shelter for himself and sat in its shade, waiting to see what would happen to Nineveh. 6 Then the Lord God made a plant grow up over Jonah to give him some shade, so that he would be more comfortable. Jonah was extremely pleased with the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day, at God's command, a worm attacked the plant, and it died. 8 After the sun had risen, God sent a hot east wind, and Jonah was about to faint from the heat of the sun beating down on his head. So he wished he were dead. “I am better off dead than alive,” he said.
9 But God said to him, “What right have you to be angry about the plant?”
Jonah replied, “I have every right to be angry — angry enough to die!”
10 The Lord said to him, “This plant grew up in one night and disappeared the next; you didn't do anything for it, and you didn't make it grow — yet you feel sorry for it! 11 How much more, then, should I have pity on Nineveh, that great city. After all, it has more than 120,000 innocent children in it, as well as many animals!” The Good News Bible

At the end of the day it is the wonder of God’s love that counts. Put the gifts God has given to good use and be surprised by God’s love and all that it can do!

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